I know I have noted it before but I am always conscious of the fact that Judaism and Christianity are religions of history. The Bible is not merely a collection of platitudes and commands; it is largely historical narrative. Someone could make a movie out of today’s story and maybe entitle it “Boy Meets Girl.” But this is not merely a love story, it is a story of promise and fulfillment. After all the shenanigans with Laban, Jacob and Leah and Rachel left for Canaan and, on the way, a man wrestled with Jacob in the night and declared, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed” (32:28). The promise remained intact and would now be fulfilled through Israel.
Back to an earlier moment in the story, though, I saw something I had not before noticed. Leah was not loved by Jacob as she desired. Nevertheless, she bore him three sons and, in each instance, she concluded, “for now my husband will love me” (29:32). She seemed motivated only by her own personal proclivities. It was not until the fourth son, Judah, was born that she would say, “This time I will praise the Lord” (29:35). I might be making more of this particular episode than I should (pretty sure I am); however, it strikes me that, in the first three instances, Leah was concerned only about her standing vis-à-vis her husband. With the birth of Judah, she rightly was concerned to thank and praise God. Again, maybe I am making too much of this, but I cannot help but think of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). When our personal desires and priorities are shaped by God’s, then, and only then, are we truly blessed.
Let the words of my mouth,
let the words of my mouth
and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable in thy sight;
wilt thou teach me how to serve thee,
wilt thou teach me how to pray? --C. E. Leslie (1924)